How to check if a business name is taken


When it comes to starting a business and forming it as an LLC or a corporation, then you need to complete several steps. One of those is to complete a California business name check. In this article, we look at how you can check for the existence of a business name that might be similar to the one you intend to use. This process might include the use of a business name checker.

Why is Checking for a Business Name in Use Important?

There are a few reasons why you need to ensure that the name that you want to use is available. For one, when registering a business as an LLC or a corporation, it is a legal requirement to have a unique name. If your name is too similar, then the paperwork will be rejected.

Another problem that you might have is confusion between your business and another. Audiences might be confused and it might mean that your target audience will go to the other business instead of yours.

And then there are marketing issues. Brand searches make up a significant proportion of organic traffic for numerous brands. If you have a competitor with a similar brand name, then they might get all the traffic if their SEO techniques are better.

Or it could be that they have been established longer, which can cause significant issues for ranking higher than them as Google tends to prefer more established businesses.

Penalties for Using a Name in Use

There are some penalties for using a name that is already in use. If a name is protected through a trademark, for instance, then the owner of the trademark can take you to court over the use. They can request that you stop using the name, or they can fine you for the damage caused to their brand.

When submitting documents to the Secretary of State, you can also have the business formation documents rejected. But the costs of submitting the documents will be refunded. Therefore, you will have to pay these fees again.

Another problem is how it will affect your marketing. Google may penalize your brand for being similar to another. Therefore, your brand may appear lower in the rankings.

How to Complete a California Business Name Check

There are several steps to ensure your California business name check goes well. Here are those four steps.

    1. Check Google

Check that the name is not listed on Google. Just a quick search on Google can demonstrate most business names that are similar. However, it is not the best option to solely rely on. And some names can be used in one state and not in another.

  1. Check Social Media

Nearly every business has a social media profile. Therefore, searching on the major social media channels can often help you to discover if a name is already in use. Check platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram. Most businesses will be listed on at least one of these.

  1. Do a Business Name Checker on the Secretary of State’s Website

The Secretary of State’s Website will have a facility to check whether or not the business name has been registered in the state. All you need to do is go to the state’s website and then enter the business name into the business name checker. All similar business names will then be listed.

It is important to note that this will not tell you whether the business name has been registered in another state. In most cases, this won’t affect you legally, unless they’ve trademarked the name. However, from a practical point of view, it can damage your reputation and make it harder for marketing.

For example, consider how Google can tell the difference between two businesses named Joe Bloggs Gardening LLC. One might be based in North Dakota, with another based in South Dakota. Google will find it challenging to distinguish between them, normally choosing the brand established the longest.

  1. Check for Domain Usage

A final option is to find the domain name. Most domain-purchasing websites have a facility where you can check whether or not a domain has been registered or not. This search will detail not just website domains that are active, but also those that are inactive. Therefore, you might be able to tell if someone is starting a similar business, or thought of it, but has not yet launched.

What to Do if a Name is in Use

There are a few options when you have a name idea, but the name is already in use. Sometimes you might be able to buy the brand from the current owner, but this can be costly and timely.

The other option is to choose another business operating name. This can be the most cost-effective, even if you’ve got attached to the current name. There are lots of ways to create a new business name.

What if a Business Name is Similar to a Non-Operating Business?

There are times when you might have chosen a name that you’ve found for a closed or non-operating business that used that name. In some respects, that name is protected for a certain period after the closure of the business. And there are marketing issues with the use of the name.

For instance, you should not use the name if they have had a bad reputation. That reputation may be unjustly transferred to you. Therefore, you face more challenges to get you to the top of Google and paying customers to your store.

Therefore, it might be best if you select a new business name.

How to Create a Business Name

There are many ways that you can create a business name for your business. You might want to consider using your actual name, play-on-words, or something that is related to the business name that you’ve established.

There are many options. There are also business name generators you can use.


What makes a great business name?

Several aspects make a great business name. You might want to consider aspects such as short, familiar words, play-on words, and quirky names.

How long should a business name be?

Business names should be no longer than two or three words long, excluding legal requirements such as LLc, Inc, etc. At this length, the business name is easy to remember but long enough to be distinct and relevant to operations.

What words should never be used in a business name?

Any words that include profanity, rudeness, or are culturally insensitive should not be used. There are times when this rule can be broken, but many states will deny a business registration because of the words used in the name.

Final Word: How to Check if a Business Name is Taken

Checking whether or not a business name is taken is important. A California business name check using a business name checker is an essential part of the process and ensures that you don’t break any laws which you might do otherwise, and doesn’t delay your business formation.

If you want to have more help with your business formation, then why not consider taking one of our courses?


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